DUBNetwork was pleased to catch up with former Blazers goaltender Connor Ingram recently.
The Imperial, Sask. native played in 158 regular-season games with the Blazers between 2014-2017. When it comes to Kamloops netminders, those 158 games land Ingram in what some might call elite company. In fact, Corey Hirsch, Devan Dubnyk, Davis Parley and Randy Petruk are the only goaltenders to play more games in a Blazers uniform than Ingram.
Aside from Dubnyk — who’s now 512 NHL games and three NHL All-Star appearances into his professional career — the Blazers have struggled to find a legitimate game-changer in goal since the turn of the millennium.
With all due respect to Cole Cheveldave, Taran Kozun, and others, that narrative began collecting dust in 2014 when Ingram arrived from the Prince Albert Mintos. Nearly six years down the road, the Blazers are a pipeline for goaltenders. Ingram, Cole Kehler, and Dylan Ferguson have since signed entry-level contracts in the NHL while 17-year old Dylan Garand has played his way into draft consideration this season.
This relatively recent string of events is not so much a coincidence to Ingram as it is the direct influence of Blazers’ goaltending coach Dan De Palma. After three seasons with the Prince George Cougars, De Palma joined the Blazers in 2008 and has since operated what Ingram refers to as a “goaltending factory.”
Ingram’s statistics improved in each of his three seasons with the Blazers, but the 22-year old shone brightest in his two rounds of playoff action. In those 13 games between 2015-2017 — all against the Kelowna Rockets — Ingram posted a .942 save percentage and a 2.15 goals-against average. Needless to say, Ingram is more than familiar with the Okanagan rivalry.
“It’s something I haven’t seen in sports. Syracuse and Utica might give it a shot but I think it still takes the cake for me. Even when somebody talks about it you get a little…tweak in your bones, it’s fun.”
Even with his own experience, Ingram was still surprised to see the rivalry take another step last weekend when Garand and Rockets goaltender Roman Basran squared off.
“The kid can throw em. I watched a clip and I was expecting more of an all-out line brawl but there was just a little scrum going on and all of a sudden the goalies were fighting. You gotta respect that, I’ve never done that in my life so it was fun to watch. Usually, when I look down the ice the guy’s a lot bigger than I am so I haven’t really gotten into it.”
It’s probably safe to say that the Milwaukee Admirals — the farm team of the NHL’s Nashville Predators — would prefer the glove and blocker stay on. Thanks to the formidable one-two punch of Ingram and veteran Troy Prosenick, the Admirals sit comfortably atop the AHL standings with 58 points and a 26-7-4-2 record.
Ingram’s own 2.11 goals-against average and .928 save percentage in 21 games earned him his second straight trip to the AHL All-Star game, albeit under different circumstances than his first.
Originally drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2016, Ingram went on to play 73 games with the organization, mostly with the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch. After his first trip to the All-Star event in 2019, Ingram spent time with the Orlando Solar Bears in the ECHL despite posting great numbers at the higher level.
Then, in July of 2019, the netminder was acquired by the Nashville Predators for a 7th round pick in the NHL Entry Draft. Half a year later, the results are in — Predators’ general manager David Poile loves a good bargain.
There have been bits of speculation regarding the Lightning’s decision-making. And why wouldn’t there be? Glancing at the statistics behind the trade, one might think the Lightning owed the Predators a favour at the time. That chatter can be difficult to ignore, especially when your name is in the thick of it.
“It was tough for me. As a person, you see all the things that come out. There was no hostility or bad blood or anything like that and that’s all that really matters. One day it will all come out but it’s good to move on now. I was very grateful for them to give me another opportunity to try somewhere else and Nashville took a chance on me.”
As Ingram prepares for Ontario, California for his second consecutive All-Star event, it appears that both sides are reaping the benefits of the fresh start. While he plugs away with the league-leading Admirals, Ingram is still learning to navigate life off the ice in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
“There’s a lot that goes on. When you’re with a billet, your meals are ready for you anytime you want one. Here you’re doing your own laundry, cooking, and that stuff. It’s more about growing up than it is playing hockey, there’s a big adjustment. The way I always put it is it’s like being a freshman in University — you take that two or three months to kind of figure out how to be an adult before you get it. I think playing hockey is kind of the same thing.”
Such is life in the fifth-largest city in the Midwestern states. Despite being nearly 2,000 km from his hometown of Imperial and its 360 inhabitants (unclear if that includes Ingram), the state of Wisconsin does offer a few reminders of home.
“I live right downtown and getting to the rink takes me only three or four minutes, its got everything you want and has the small-town feel that I really like.”
But there’s one thing in particular that both Wisconsin and Saskatchewan seem to enjoy more than others — the colour green.
“I didn’t realize how involved the people of Wisconsin get. Growing up a Riders fan, all of Saskatchewan is cheering for the Riders and it’s pretty much the same thing here in Wisconsin. Being so close to Chicago, I thought that there would be more Bears fans but it’s Packer heaven out here.”
If Ingram and his Admirals continue at their current pace, Aaron Rodgers and his Packers may have to share a piece of the spotlight.